Sunday, November 09, 2008

Odyssey, Bk 1: Athena Inspires the Prince

I persuaded three of my friends to read along with me, how cool is that? Murasaki (I'm not sure which one that is) has already commented:

Book 1: the hoards of feasting suitors-what a mob scene! Go, Telemachus! And Athena's sparkling, flashing eyes everywhere...
I don't think I can match that. One of my friends went for it because he's been asked to give a lecture on music theory and how myths are involved, or something like that.

So we find out Poseidon is mad at Odysseus and that's why he can't go home, and I immediately wonder, Am I forgetting something from the Iliad, should I know the reason why? I just needed to be patient...60 lines later I find out it's because of the whole blinding the Cyclops thing. Don't mess with a kid of the gods. Don't you know better? Then I thought, how could I forget The Odyssey begins this way? Somehow my memory kept it as picking up where The Iliad left off.

But now Poseidon is away getting his props from the Ethiopians, "off at the farthest limits of mankind, a people split in two, one part where the Sungod sets and part where the Sungod rises." (26-28) I thought that was interesting, have no idea what it means.

As the gods do, Athena takes advantage of that distance, and proposes a plan to all the other gods.
let us dispatch the guide and giant-killer Hermes
down to Ogygia Island, down to announce at once
to the nymph with lovely braids our fixed decree:
Odysseus journeys home--the exile must return!
While I myself go down to Ithaca, rouse his son
to a braver pitch, inspire his heart with courage
to summon the flowing-haired Achaeans to full assembly,
speak his mind to all those suitors, (100-107)
Are those suitors, or raiders, or land-grabbers? Telemachus grills the stranger Athena about the outside world, and whether (s)he knew his father. Poor T, he must not really have any memory of his father. Athena proceeds as planned: dad's coming home, T; buck up T, be a man and kick these perpetual frat boys out.
How obscenely they lounge and swagger here, look,
gorging in your house. Why, any man of sense
who chanced among them would be outraged,
seeing such behavior. (264-267)
And more specifically:
Fit out a ship with twenty oars, the best in sight,
sail in quest of news of your long-lost father.
...First go down to Pylos, question old Kind Nestor,
then cross over to Sparta, to red-haired Menelaus...
Now, if you hear your father's alive and heading home,
hard-pressed as you are, brave out on more year. (322-328)
Somehow Telemachus knew the stranger had to be Athena of the flashing eyes.

I think we've gotta watch out for Antinous. If I remember my ancient Greek (I don't) I think it means 'not brainy'. He'll be like the lead frat boy, thickest and meanest of all. He prays "that Zeus will never make [Telemachus] king of Ithaca." (443)

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